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Need help speeding up my old iMac from 2008 - defragment?

1951 Views 4 Replies Latest reply: Apr 22, 2013 1:24 PM by MichelPM RSS
turtlekid Calculating status...
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Apr 22, 2013 11:19 AM

I have an old 20 inch iMac from 2008. It is a 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4 GB of Ram. Its still running Leopard 10.5.8, which is te last version of Leopard (I believe).

 

I have several questions, but I will start with the biggest one.

 

How can I speed it up? It runs very sluggishly and I've tried just about everything to try to get it to speed up. I've done all the recommended things, such as removing unnecessary startup programs, repairing disk permissions, freeing up hard drive space, monitoring the task manager for processes that take up a lot of CPU power and I've added more ram. The CPU can be at 90% idle and it will still act slow.

 

I know its not the software because its as old as the OS, so the system should be able to handle it, for example, I am running Adobe CS3. A friend told me that maybe I need to defragment. I read that after a certain OSX version the system does not need to defrag because the OS prevents the hard drive from fragmenting in the first place. Plus, there is no utility to defrag in the OS. I also read somewhere that if you do happen to fill up your hard drive to the very brim the data will fragment regardless. I did fill the hard drive to the brim -- to about 500 MB of free space. Since then I have freed up about 100 GB, but its slow.

 

Should I find a way to defragment? If so, is there any 3rd party software that is recomended for an old system like this?

 

I have tons more questions, such as:

 

- How to upgrade the OS to Snow Leopard, Lion or Mountain Lion.

- Should I backup the system via Time Machine before upgrading the OS to Snow Leopard, Lion or Mountain Lion?

- If I do upgrade my OS will my software be incompatible and do I need the original software discs to reinstall them?

- Why does my Time Machine take so long to backup?

 

I'd like to start with an answer about defragmenting.

iMac, Mac OS X (10.5.8)
  • Kappy Level 10 Level 10 (220,980 points)

    Things You Can Do To Resolve Slow Downs

     

    If your computer seems to be running slower here are some things you can do:

     

    Start with a visit to: OS X Maintenance - MacAttorney.

     

    Boot into Safe Mode then repair your hard drive and permissions:

     

    Repair the Hard Drive and Permissions Pre-Lion/Mountain Lion

     

    Boot from your OS X Installer disc. After the installer loads select your language and click on the Continue button. When the menu bar appears select Disk Utility from the Utilities menu. After DU loads select your hard drive entry (mfgr.'s ID and drive size) from the the left side list.  In the DU status area you will see an entry for the S.M.A.R.T. status of the hard drive.  If it does not say "Verified" then the hard drive is failing or failed. (SMART status is not reported on external Firewire or USB drives.) If the drive is "Verified" then select your OS X volume from the list on the left (sub-entry below the drive entry,) click on the First Aid tab, then click on the Repair Disk button. If DU reports any errors that have been fixed, then re-run Repair Disk until no errors are reported. If no errors are reported click on the Repair Permissions button. Wait until the operation completes, then quit DU and return to the installer.

     

    If DU reports errors it cannot fix, then you will need Disk Warrior and/or Tech Tool Pro to repair the drive. If you don't have either of them or if neither of them can fix the drive, then you will need to reformat the drive and reinstall OS X.

     

    Repair the Hard Drive - Lion/Mountain Lion

     

    Boot from your Lion Recovery HD. When the recovery menu appears select Disk Utility. After DU loads select your hard drive entry (mfgr.'s ID and drive size) from the the left side list.  In the DU status area you will see an entry for the S.M.A.R.T. status of the hard drive.  If it does not say "Verified" then the hard drive is failing or failed. (SMART status is not reported on external Firewire or USB drives.) If the drive is "Verified" then select your OS X volume from the list on the left (sub-entry below the drive entry,) click on the First Aid tab, then click on the Repair Disk button. If DU reports any errors that have been fixed, then re-run Repair Disk until no errors are reported. If no errors are reported, then click on the Repair Permissions button. Wait until the operation completes, then quit DU and return to the main menu. Select Restart from the Apple menu.

     

    Boot to the Recovery HD:

     

    Restart the computer and after the chime press and hold down the COMMAND and R keys until the menu screen appears. Alternatively, restart the computer and after the chime press and hold down the OPTION key until the boot manager screen appears. Select the Recovery HD and click on the downward pointing arrow button.

     

    Restart your computer normally and see if this has helped any. Next do some maintenance:

     

    Suggestions for OS X Maintenance

     

    For situations Disk Utility cannot handle the best third-party utility is Disk Warrior;  DW only fixes problems with the disk directory, but most disk problems are caused by directory corruption; Disk Warrior 4.x is now Intel Mac compatible.

     

    OS X performs certain maintenance functions that are scheduled to occur on a daily, weekly, or monthly period. The maintenance scripts run in the early AM only if the computer is turned on 24/7 (no sleep.) If this isn't the case, then an excellent solution is to download and install a shareware utility such as Macaroni, JAW PseudoAnacron, or Anacron that will automate the maintenance activity regardless of whether the computer is turned off or asleep.  Dependence upon third-party utilities to run the periodic maintenance scripts was significantly reduced since Tiger.  These utilities have limited or no functionality with Snow Leopard or Lion and should not be installed.

     

    OS X automatically defragments files less than 20 MBs in size, so unless you have a disk full of very large files there's little need for defragmenting the hard drive. As for virus protection there are few if any such animals affecting OS X. You can protect the computer easily using the freeware Open Source virus protection software ClamXAV. Personally I would avoid most commercial anti-virus software because of their potential for causing problems. For more about malware see Macintosh Virus Guide.

     

    I would also recommend downloading a utility such as TinkerTool System, OnyX 2.4.3, or Cocktail 5.1.1 that you can use for periodic maintenance such as removing old log files and archives, clearing caches, etc.

     

    For emergency repairs install the freeware utility Applejack.  If you cannot start up in OS X, you may be able to start in single-user mode from which you can run Applejack to do a whole set of repair and maintenance routines from the command line.  Note that AppleJack 1.5 is required for Leopard. AppleJack 1.6 is compatible with Snow Leopard. There is no confirmation that this version also works with Lion.

     

    When you install any new system software or updates be sure to repair the hard drive and permissions beforehand.

     

    Get an external Firewire drive at least equal in size to the internal hard drive and make (and maintain) a bootable clone/backup. You can make a bootable clone using the Restore option of Disk Utility. You can also make and maintain clones with good backup software. My personal recommendations are (order is not significant):

     

      1. Carbon Copy Cloner

      2. Data Backup

      3. Deja Vu

      4. SuperDuper!

      5. SyncTwoFolders

      6. Synk Pro

      7. Synk Standard

      8. Tri-Backup

     

    Visit The XLab FAQs and read the FAQs on maintenance, optimization, virus protection, and backup and restore.

     

    Additional suggestions will be found in Mac maintenance Quick Assist.

     

    Referenced software can be found at CNet Downloads or MacUpdate.

     

    Additional Hints

     

    Be sure you have an adequate amount of RAM installed for the number of applications you run concurrently. Be sure you leave a minimum of 10% of the hard drive's capacity as free space.

     

    Add more RAM. If your computer has less than 2 GBs of RAM and you are using OS X Leopard or later, then you can do with more RAM. Snow Leopard and Lion work much better with 4 GBs of RAM than their system minimums. The more concurrent applications you tend to use the more RAM you should have.

     

    Always maintain at least 15 GBs or 10% of your hard drive's capacity as free space, whichever is greater. OS X is frequently accessing your hard drive, so providing adequate free space will keep things from slowing down.

     

    Check for applications that may be hogging the CPU:

     

    Open Activity Monitor in the Utilities folder.  Select All Processes from the Processes dropdown menu.  Click twice on the CPU% column header to display in descending order.  If you find a process using a large amount of CPU time, then select the process and click on the Quit icon in the toolbar.  Click on the Force Quit button to kill the process.  See if that helps.  Be sure to note the name of the runaway process so you can track down the cause of the problem.

     

    Often this problem occurs because of a corrupted cache or preferences file or an attempt to write to a corrupted log file.

  • MadMacs0 Level 4 Level 4 (3,320 points)

    turtlekid wrote:

     

    Should I find a way to defragment? If so, is there any 3rd party software that is recomended for an old system like this?

    DEFRAGMENT A HARD DRIVE THAT IS LOW ON CONTIGUOUS FREE SPACE.

    - If I do upgrade my OS will my software be incompatible...

    App Compatibility Table.

  • Klaus1 Level 8 Level 8 (43,310 points)

    Defragmentation in OS X:

     

    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1375  which states:

     

    You probably won't need to optimize at all if you use Mac OS X. Here's why:

    • Hard disk capacity is generally much greater now than a few years ago. With more free space available, the file system doesn't need to fill up every "nook and cranny." Mac OS Extended formatting (HFS Plus) avoids reusing space from deleted files as much as possible, to avoid prematurely filling small areas of recently-freed space.
    • Mac OS X 10.2 and later includes delayed allocation for Mac OS X Extended-formatted volumes. This allows a number of small allocations to be combined into a single large allocation in one area of the disk.
    • Fragmentation was often caused by continually appending data to existing files, especially with resource forks. With faster hard drives and better caching, as well as the new application packaging format, many applications simply rewrite the entire file each time. Mac OS X 10.3 onwards can also automatically defragment such slow-growing files. This process is sometimes known as "Hot-File-Adaptive-Clustering."
    • Aggressive read-ahead and write-behind caching means that minor fragmentation has less effect on perceived system performance.

    Whilst 'defragging' OS X is rarely necessary, Rod Hagen has produced this excellent analysis of the situation which is worth reading:

     

    Most users, as long as they leave plenty of free space available , and don't work regularly in situations where very large files are written and rewritten, are unlikely to notice the effects of fragmentation on either their files or on the drives free space much.

     

    As the drive fills the situations becomes progressively more significant, however.

     

    Some people will tell you that "OSX defrags your files anyway". This is only partly true. It defrags files that are less than 20 MB in size. It doesn't defrag larger files and it doesn't defrag the free space on the drive. In fact the method it uses to defrag the smaller files actually increases the extent of free space fragmentation. Eventually, in fact, once the largest free space fragments are down to less than 20 MB (not uncommon on a drive that has , say only 10% free space left) it begins to give up trying to defrag altogether. Despite this, the system copes very well without defragging as long as you have plenty of room.

     

    Again, this doesn't matter much when the drive is half empty or better, but it does when it gets fullish, and it does especially when it gets fullish if you are regularly dealing with large files , like video or serious audio stuff.

     

    If you look through this discussion board you will see quite a few complaints from people who find that their drive gets "slow". Often you will see that say that "still have 10 or 20 gigs free" or the like. On modern large drives by this stage they are usually in fact down to the point where the internal defragmentation routines can no longer operate , where their drives are working like navvies to keep up with finding space for any larger files, together with room for "scratch files", virtual memory, directories etc etc etc. Such users are operating in a zone where they put a lot more stress on their drives as a result, often start complaining of increased "heat", etc etc. Most obviously, though, the computer slows down to a speed not much better than that of molasses. Eventually the directories and other related files may collapse altogether and they find themselves with a next to unrecoverable disk problems.

     

    By this time, of course, defragging itself has already become just about impossible. The amount of work required to shift the data into contiguous blocks is immense, puts additional stress on the drive, takes forever, etc etc. The extent of fragmentation of free space at this stage can be simply staggering, and any large files you subsequently write are likely to be divided into many , many tens of thousands of fragments scattered across the drive. Not only this, but things like the "extents files", which record where all the bits are located, will begin to grow astronomically as a result, putting even more pressure on your already stressed drive, and increasing the risk of major failures.

     

    Ultimately this adds up to a situation where you can identify maybe three "phases" of mac life when it comes to the need for defragmentation.

     

    In the "first phase" (with your drive less than half full), it doesn't matter much at all - probably not enough to even make it worth doing.

     

    In the "second phase" (between , say 50% free space and 20% free space remaining) it becomes progressively more useful, but , depending on the use you put your computer to you won't see much difference at the higher levels of free space unless you are serious video buff who needs to keep their drives operating as efficiently and fast as possible - chances are they will be using fast external drives over FW800 or eSata to compliment their internal HD anyway.

     

    At the lower end though (when boot drives get down around the 20% mark on , say, a 250 or 500 Gig drive) I certainly begin to see an impact on performance and stability when working with large image files, mapping software, and the like, especially those which rely on the use of their own "scratch" files, and especially in situations where I am using multiple applications simultaneously, if I haven't defragmented the drive for a while. For me, defragmenting (I use iDefrag too - it is the only third party app I trust for this after seeing people with problems using TechToolPro and Drive Genius for such things) gives a substantial performance boost in this sort of situation and improves operational stability. I usually try to get in first these days and defrag more regularly (about once a month) when the drive is down to 30% free space or lower.

     

    Between 20% and 10% free space is a bit of a "doubtful region". Most people will still be able to defrag successfully in this sort of area, though the time taken and the risks associated increase as the free space declines. My own advice to people in this sort of area is that they start choosing their new , bigger HD, because they obviously are going to need one very soon, and try to "clear the decks" so that they maintain that 20% free buffer until they do. Defragging regularly (perhaps even once a fortnight) will actually benefit them substantially during this "phase", but maybe doing so will lull them into a false sense of security and keep them from seriously recognising that they need to be moving to a bigger HD!

     

    Once they are down to that last ten per cent of free space, though, they are treading on glass. Free space fragmentation at least will already be a serious issue on their computers but if they try to defrag with a utility without first making substantially more space available then they may find it runs into problems or is so slow that they give up half way through and do the damage themselves, especially if they are using one of the less "forgiving" utilities!

     

    In this case I think the best way to proceed is to clone the internal drive to a larger external with SuperDuper, replace the internal drive with a larger one and then clone back to it. No-one down to the last ten percent of their drive really has enough room to move. Defragging it will certainly speed it up, and may even save them from major problems briefly, but we all know that before too long they are going to be in the same situation again. Better to deal with the matter properly and replace the drive with something more akin to their real needs once this point is reached. Heck, big HDs are as cheap as chips these days! It is mad to struggle on with sluggish performance, instability, and the possible risk of losing the lot, in such a situation.

  • MichelPM Level 5 Level 5 (7,110 points)

    Hello turtlekid,

    Good advice here, but will add my questions.

    How many apps do you run concurrently in the background while working in another application?

    You still maybe starved for RAM.

    4 GBs of RAM is a good , general working minimum of RAM, but it is not optimal.

    Your iMac model can take a total of 6 GBs of RAM.

    You can purchase and install a 4 GB RAM module from Mac RAM sources Crucial memory or OWC (macsales.com).

    While OS X 10.5.8 is not as resource hungry as newer OS X versions, your version of  OS X, on its own, still like to run with between 2-4 GBs of RAM to run smoothly, quickly and efficiently.

    If you are running additonal RAM intensive apps like Adobe Photoshop, apps like this can eat up all of the available RAM and start shuttling RAM tasks back and forth between the iMac's internal hard drive.

    A spinning hard drive is slower than using actual,,physical RAM, so RAM tasks working on a hard drive will slow down your iMac's performance, too!

    So, if you have many apps open at once with a few of these active apps being very CPU and RAM intensive one, this can really put a strain on your model iMac and really slow things down.

     

    If you only upgrade your OS X version to OS X10.6 Snow Leopard, all of your apps should still work without issues. If you have any old PowerPC apps that haven't been updated to either Universal or Intel updates, OS X 10.6 is the only native OS X version left that will still run these apps.

    OS X 10.6 has a PowerPC emulator called Rosetta that will allow older PowerPC applications, in most cases, to still operate.

    There may or may not be any glitches with running older software under the Rosetta emulator.

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